The voices were muffled, distant and clouded as though they were being spoken through thick mud; there had been voices like this several times recently, over the past…how long? What is time to one who has moved beyond their life and into the Soul Stream? There are but flickers, ripples, never concrete, never solid in a place where time doesn't exactly exist.
All those voices were getting louder, yet none of them were clear yet. Occasionally, a Shaman of great power could pierce the veil between Telara and the Soulstream, and converse with those who had passed on or those who had yet to be born. There had never been more than one, or possibly two if the Shaman was training another, so that didn't solve the mystery of the voices.
"…vit… ..ized," one said, almost hopeful in its tone.
Another voice drifted past, "…pening… …ayb… …aking…"
Something wasn't right. I could feel it, which was awkward, as I had not truly felt anything since I returned to the Soulstream. Not since…
It was then that my eyes snapped open, blinded by the false lighting that glared down into them. Even as my eyes were clearing, my mind was marveling at the fact that they were there at all; the last I knew, my eyes had been preserved with a special apothecary mixture, and wrapped up in linen. How strange that I should have them again.
All at once, I became aware of other sensations, so many of them that it became difficult to sort through them all logically.
I was still burning. I could feel ungodly heat racing through my veins and into my heart, into my mind. They felt like they were going to explode, rip apart from the inside out as the fires burst free. Was I somehow lost in the plane of Fire, awakening into a hellish servitude…but how could that be, it felt like I was drifting for so long.
There were screams. No, there was only one scream – my scream, and yet it sounded nothing like what I remembered.
"We're losing her!" one of the voices shouted. "Where the hell are the sedatives?"
The fires were doing something to my body. As they spread out from my heart and mind, I could feel a strange sensation of change, almost how it feels to have a salve solidify on the skin, yet all throughout the flesh. Muscles flexed to their breaking points, and continued to flex beyond what they felt should be capable of. Every nerve was alive with this fire, intensifying over and over again as the heat shifted my very being.
"Not yet! She hasn't sync'd with the core yet!" another voice shouted.
There was the sound of rushing wings, as if hundreds of birds were suddenly swirling about my head, even though all I could see were harsh, false streaks of light. The rivers of fire had expanded so greatly that I could no longer feel them individually; instead they flooded together like one great maelstrom of power. Perhaps my body had to combust fully before I could rejoin the Soulstream…but I'd already been there for what felt like forever.
Suddenly, the fires were quenched, and I felt the cooling touch of water washing over me, chasing away that undying burning. Was the Soulstream literally a stream?
The waters began to swirl about me, moving downward as if they were being drained away. The false lights became sharper, and I could make out some sort of windows running parallel to one another before me. Absently, I reached out for one, and found that I was tethered at the wrist.
A clear, sharp voice cut through my questioning thought before it finished forming.
"See, I told you it would be alright," a man's voice said. "She sync'd up, her vitals stabilized, and the process completed."
It was then I realized that I was, in fact, alive once more.
Squinting, I tried to peer out the windows, but they were still clouded from the warmth of the waters that were slowly receding. I looked down at the tethers that bound me, and discovered that they were tubes, with needles injecting them into my arms at the wrist and again at the elbow. There was some sort of liquid within them, and it too was receding as the waters that had surrounded me were.
I couldn't reach the windows, but there were figures moving beyond the glass, although I couldn't tell who or what they were. I tried to call out to them, but before I could make any sort of sound, my body was wracked with a painful coughing fit. After a moment, I took several deep breaths, and I wondered if this was the first time I had breathed the air with this body.
The body – instinctively, I knew it wasn't my own. I looked downward, at myself, at least what I could see from this perspective. It was clear that I was Eth, though I was unsure what tribe this body was from; my skin was darker than I recalled it being, and it was soft like a newborn child's would be. Its shape was quite different from the one I could remember, quite a bit curvier and feminine, which was something I wasn't exactly too distressed about. Turning and tilting my head to the side, I could see wet strands of bright white clinging to my shoulder, and smiled that at least that part was right; I'd always hated how stark white my hair was compared to other Eth.
Once the waters had receded, the dark walls with their steamed windows shifted, and there was the sound of groaning metal against metal, and they slowly broke apart and began to sink downward into some sort of pedestal. The lights were quite bright now, and I couldn't really see anything for a brief and tense few seconds.
When they refocused, I found myself staring face to face with a middle aged Eth man, who was smiling as if he had just defeated Regulos all by himself. While I cannot claim that I am like a sister to the Eth, I was quite close to them for the majority of my life, and I did not recognize the one before me. He was chattering brightly in an unfamiliar dialect as he removed the tubes from my arms, untethering me from the great machine that I had been confined within.
"I don't understand you," I replied, frowning.
He gave me a curious look, and called out to someone behind him. A rather short Eth woman rushed up the steps and looked at him, frowning despite the fact the Kelari was trying to keep his smile upon his lips. They conversed for a brief moment, and then she turned to me.
"Can you understand me?" she asked.
It was Ancient Eth, from the height of the Empire. Why on Telara was she speaking in Ancient Eth?
Blinking, an unfamiliar voice answered her with my thoughts, "Of course, but why are you speaking in such ancient tongues?"
That was my voice. It was deeper than it had been before, and remarkably more melodic and pleasing. I suppose that was going to take some getting used to, but for the moment, I felt completely disconnected from the voice.
"My name is Mari," she replied, smiling slightly as she clasped my upper arm. "I am one of Orphiel's technicians. We've brought you back to life."
I was stunned. Eyes wide, I let the Kelari slip a loose robe over my arms and shoulders, my arms wrapping around myself to keep it closed. This Mari lead me down off the platform, and I saw that there were many great machines here, and others who were like Mari and the Kelari and one other who was soaking wet like I was.
"You'll likely need a few minutes to become accustom to your new Ascended form. We try to match the souls with the proper baseline genetic codes," Mari prattled, "but occasionally there are instances where it's harder for the soul to accept it – usually when we bring a very ancient soul back, since most of us have changed greatly since then."
Stopping dead in my tracks, I stared at the shorter Eth for a long moment before I finally managed to ask, "How long has it been since Regulos was defeated? When was the last Rift finally sealed?"
Mari looked almost as shocked as I felt. She blinked several times and whispered, "The Shade War ended about thirty years ago, how could you know that when all you can speak is the more popular of the Ancient Eth dialects!"
After a moment, she sighed and replied, "It's been a very long time since the Kelari turned from Tavril, and from the height of the Eth Empire. Unfortunately, Regulos has broken free from his prison, and is threatening to destroy Telara once more. That's why we brought you back, actually."
I reached out and gripped her shoulder, feeling lightheaded as I whispered, "How long has it been since the Defiant alliance left Port Scion?"
"Oh, that was pretty recent. I think that one of the older scholars here could give you the exact dates," the girl said, looking confused. "If you know about Port Scion, why can't you understand modern language?"
"…damned by the Vigil's short hairs, this is our past," I managed to say before the world went dark.